GREENFIELD —  The George Webb's restaurant closed more than a month ago by the Greenfield Health Department for cleanliness violations may soon reopen under new ownership.

Health inspector Mary Kapelis cited 11 conditions for closing the business, 4845 W. Forest Home Ave., that could make people sick. As an example, the dishwasher didn't sanitize food utensils, according to her report.

The utensils in the dishwasher were not cleaned by a sanitizer for the required length of time, the report says.  Kapelis said she found no sanitizer concentration after three tests cycles, her report says.

Also, there was a lack of paper towels and hand drying devices in food preparation areas for employees.

One of the more serious priority items she found was that the chili and chicken soup were not found to be hot enough. Hot food is to be kept at least 141-degrees to reduce bacteria growth,said Darren Rausch, health department director. Kapelis found them at 96.3 and 88.7 degrees.

Another observation was an employee handling cheese barehanded, instead of wearing gloves.

"I am thoroughly disgusted," said Alderwoman Linda Lubotsky. "I do not want this type of business in my district."

Dangerous situation

Lax food handling procedures could contaminate food with bacteria that could kill those with low immunity such as babies or elderly persons, Lubotsky said.

Lubotsky's complaint to the health department triggered the March 30 inspection. The restaurant was owned by Joey Gudgeon of Milwaukee.

In an email, Rausch told Lubotsky: "Following up on your recent complaint, we have closed the George Webb until further notice.  Mary's inspection this morning identified a non-working dishwasher and innumerable sanitation violations that must be addressed before reopening."

Clean slate

The restaurant could reopen soon, as new owners for the George Webb's have been found. They are Joan Groh and Craig Runkel who started the city approval process Tuesday, May 9, for reopening the restaurant. They were to come before the city plan commission this week for a special use permit review.

The location will get a fresh start, Rausch said.

Groh, who said she has been in the catering business her entire life, agrees. She will run the Greenfield restaurant.

"I'll operate it the way it should be operated," she said. "We've got a lot of cleaning to do, once we get in there."

She and Runkel are buying a George Webb restaurant in Waukesha on Sunset Drive that's also owned by Gudgeon. Runkel will run that restaurant, she said.

Some legal hurdles must be cleared by the corporate office for the pair to take over, but Groh said she hopes the Greenfield George Webb to open in early summer.

Why closed 

Kapelis closed the Greenfield restaurant on the spot mostly because the owner was not available, Rausch said. With no one there to fix the problems, closing the restaurant was the only answer, he said.

Soon after closing it, the health department found George Webb corporate officials were already looking for a new franchisee for the restaurant, Rausch said. So, it was not necessary to pursue citations, he said. Gudgeon had operated the restaurant since May 2016.

"The take away is that the previous ownership was not able to follow food rules appropriately, we closed them down and new owners will come in," Rausch said.

Health department inspectors get to every restaurant at least once a year, he said. They come more than once if violations have been found, he said.

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